The longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere promptly arrives every June 21. As fate would have it (and my publisher), at the beginning of the summer solstice, my new book was born: HumanOffOn. I like the jokes of fate when inadvertently unexpected and unthought-of coincidences occur. That same day the world also celebrated the day of music, the sun, and the International Yoga Day. Very few days of the year can be proud of celebrating so many aspects that define so much the human quality at the same time.
As I was saying, on June 21, 2016, HumanOffOn was born. They were 9 months of pregnancy, plus the pre-labor work and the labor itself. As I write these words, it is an already a one-day-old ruddy baby. The process of writing this new book was an unexpected journey towards knowledge.
I say knowledge, precisely, as a part of learning, as an essential component of the leaps taken forward. I discovered many aspects of the human being, which until then, I did not know. I learned about our origins, about our evolution, I understood new aspects of what defines us. The Immersion in writing transported me, and I say it transported me, to the far reaches of the universe and the classical thought of two thousand years ago. It took me to philosophy and to the heart of technology. I spent a long time in the classrooms putting myself in my students’ shoes, but also in teachers’ shoes. I learned the meaning of the word “work” and the impact of genomic medicine in our body. I gained knowledge about the soul of robots, about the man-machine relationship; I opened a door to artificial intelligence and the exploration of what makes us human.
The more I learnt the less I wanted to finish writing. I was eager to learn more, read more, ask more, learn more. The journey towards the human is infinite, exciting, complex, revealing, and each stop on the way opened a new route to other destinations. By feeling the hot flame of discovery made me feel an explorer, a pioneer, a kind of pseudo-discoverer of the human being, of the world, of myself. I welcomed the feeling of moving into a new level, one that led me to see with clarity the balance we try to reach every day between the offline and online world. This process of learning how to live between two worlds, which are already one.
Writing a second book gives you advantages. You learn to better manage the “no time”; you find minutes where there are none, and discover moments where there were none. But you move forward, one page the first day, another the next, then three barren days, and then another day in which you throw up a whole chapter. The process, as I was saying, is enriching, even painful sometimes, amazing other times: creation is a bit that ying-yang where fear, insecurity and pain live together with passion, commitment and responsibility. It’s dizzying to begin to know more, to understand more, to see better, to think with a different eye, to observe with a different mind.
The enslaved children hurt, the sickening xenophobia, depression as the fashionable disease of the XXI century. I was glad of the advances in developing countries, the reduction of poverty and the voice Internet gives to the voiceless. I had to re-read again and again the advances in the fields of medicine, science, biology and artificial intelligence. Nicholas Carr’s saying that “the smartphone exiles us from the here and now” stuck to my mind, but I was also marked by phrases about teachers who leave their mark, who do not only teach, but arouse and inspire. This education that lasted twenty-seven chapters (it’s curious that the book was born on 21/6, 21 + 6 = 27) was a unifying, common, and essential aspect to understand where we come from, where we are and where we want to go.
HumanOffOn awakened a new consciousness in me; it shook me from digital anesthesia and pushed me into reflections as necessary as ineluctable. While the urgent will remain urgent, the important needs to occupy an essential place in our society. Let’s transform the “no time” into a space for making a pause, for debating, a space to wake up, to reflect and above all, to do.
Writing a book is an act of temporary selfishness and permanent generosity. It is a good metaphor for life.
Life is likely to be much more than planting a tree or writing a child, but having a child requires greater responsibility to the present and more commitment to the future. The present and the future need each and every one of us, so that the journey into the human is written by all of us and is built as a team. And not just to be together but to make something together: to make the world a better place. We need it.